State legislature comes through for Northwest Minnesota farmers

By Ron Kotrba | May 31, 2019

In late May the Minnesota state legislature approved $5 million in funding for a Soy Innovation Campus in Crookston, Minnesota.

The Minnesota Soybean Growers Association says its farmer-leaders were persistently advocating in the capital city of Saint Paul throughout the 2019 session, meeting with legislators and Gov. Tim Walz’s administration to highlight the educational and economic benefits the complex would bring to Northwest Minnesota.

The campus would house Epitome Energy LLC’s 30 MMgy biodiesel production facility and large soybean oil extraction plant, a specialty soybean mechanical extraction plant and specialty oil refining operation. The campus also plans to provide classrooms and laboratories for the University of Minnesota-Crookston, offices for private industries using coproducts from the four facilities, and workforce training.

“This is a dream come true for farmers in Northwest Minnesota,” said Mike Skaug, an MSGA director and farmer in Polk County near Crookston. “We’ve always viewed the Soy Innovation Campus as a game-changer for our region’s economy, and we’re grateful the legislature and Walz administration see the same potential that we do.”

More than 1.5 million acres of soybeans were harvested in the region last year, with 11 surrounding counties producing more than 62 million bushels.

According to a recent study conducted by the UMN Extension and the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council, the construction of the soybean and crush facilities would generate $134 million in economic activity and add an estimated 820 jobs, contributing nearly $323 million in new economic activity across Northwest Minnesota. The plant would create 80 to 100 direct jobs and have an estimated payroll and benefits of more than $5 million. Once fully operational, the biodiesel and soy crush complex could increase the price of soybeans in the area by up to 20 cents a bushel.

Patrick O’Leary, MSR&PC chair, said, “With the ag economy suffering throughout Minnesota, this funding couldn’t have come at a better time.”

The funding will go into effect in July 2020.

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